LOTRO Legendarium: Analyzing the 2021 LOTRO producer letter


Despite the title of the “February 2021” producer’s letter, Standing Stone Games’ official annual roadmap was welcomed when it arrived last week. In March. Anyway, it’s here, and as always, that means we have a whole lot to talk about as we look ahead to what Lord of the Rings Online has in store for us this year.

My very first impressions of this letter is how unsurprising it is. Since SSG has been upping its comms these past few months (no complaint here), a lot of the items in this letter have already been revealed in past Q&As and other interviews. Still, I think it’s very useful to have all of the pertinent news bundled up and presented like this. So let’s dig into it!

Instead of past years when Ciccolini would bounce around from topic to topic in his letter, this year’s producer’s letter is a very straight-forward schedule of coming content and events for LOTRO. It starts with this month’s Wildwood update and goes on through the fall’s Gundabad expansion. We’re looking to get about four content drops of varying size this year, which seems to me to be a good amount.

The new addition for the Spring Festival — apparently starring grumpy Grimbeorn — intrigues me, as this is the one holiday event that I typically avoid due to a lack of enjoyable activities. I’m not going to get my hopes up too high, but if SSG can deliver a fun repeatable event that pays out in tokens, then I am on board.

What I’m most intrigued about are the new “Further Adventures” that the dev team is making. From what I understand, these are level-agnostic quests or quest chains that will give us new storylines to pursue, perhaps akin to what we did with Bingo Boffin.

I think it’s a fantastic way to reuse zones and resources, and the level-scaling might allow players of different levels to team up and have some fun together. The mission tech that came out last fall didn’t get the best of reviews due to the missions themselves being kind of dull, but I think the idea is solid. Good on SSG for pushing it forward and being open to doing more of these adventures.

It’s not hard to read between the lines of this letter and see that SSG is still smarting at the spanking that the community and press gave it over the so-called “mini-expansion” of this past fall. While the studio isn’t ruling out future mandatory paid content releases, it’s certainly going out of its way to point out that Updates 29 and 30 are going to be free to subscribers.

And I do like that there’s going to be a big fat content update over the summer. Not only does this give content-tapped players something new to do, but it also helps drum up interest in the Gundabad expansion. Let me ask you, are you excited about Gundabad? Because I’m as lukewarm as can be. I won’t hate seeing it arrive, but so far I haven’t been set on fire by this storyline or what little SSG has said about the fall expansion.

Speaking of which, if you were hoping to hear SSG spill more details about Gundabad, then this was not the letter for you. The only information we got about it is that this will wrap up the Dwarf vs. Orc storyline. I get wanting to keep some big reveals for later, but c’mon guys, you could have dropped a morsel or two to whet the appetite of the community. This letter seems more lukewarm about the expansion than I am.

In the concluding paragraphs, there was a small assortment of different items. The legendary servers, which SSG does not talk about much these days, is definintely going into Mordor and perhaps beyond in 2021. I was mildly surprised to see the studio state that they’re putting a priority on getting some PvMP work done. I’m sure the few players who engage in that side of the game are excited about this, but PvMP is not of interest to a vast majority of the playerbase. Honestly, I’m surprised SSG hasn’t given up on it entirely.

The most unfortunate thing about this letter is how it concludes, which is with a very rushed and unsatisfying statement about legendary items. SSG didn’t even commit to the promised overhaul or revamp, electing instead to say that it just wants to speed up LI leveling. Well, whoop-dee-do. This is a core system that affects every dang player over 40, but you go ahead and keep pushing off that revamp. It’s so beyond procrastinating that it’s embarrassing — and frustrating.

It’s also slightly notable that we didn’t hear anything in this letter about the Brawler, River-hobbits, additional server rulesets, server merges, dead character transfers, or class balance (although, to be fair, SSG has talked about all of those in previous Q&As). We also didn’t get anything official here about the effects of EG7’s purchase and funding.

All in all, it’s an OK letter. There’s a lot of content coming and some of it looks pretty interesting. We’re going to have to suck up another year of the cruddy LI system. And SSG continues to play its communication very close to the chest. In other words, 2021 is going to be a fine if not exceptional year for LOTRO.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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